Hoiday Stress Busters

Nine meditations to help you get through the holidays with your sanity intact:

  1. Too many parties to attend
  2. Fighting the traffic
  3. To decorate or not to decorate
  4. The shopping experience
  5. Gift-giving expectations
  6. Unbendable family traditions
  7. The demands of meal preparation
  8. The temptations of the season
  9. When work gets in the way
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#4 - To decorate or not to decorate

Don't you just love the neighborhoods all dressed up for the holiday season? When I was a little girl, we would all pile in the car to cruise other people's neighborhoods to see their lights. We didn't decorate at our house, though. Maybe my Dad just thought it was easier to let "them" do all the work and then we'd get vicarious pleasure from their decorations.

On some of the houses the lights can be a little blinding and then there are those who take the bare essentials approach. With me it's one year on, one year off. It can take so much work to get those lights and decorations up, but the end results look so inviting. My problem tends not to be getting the decorations up; it's taking them down in January. Or February. Or March. Did you know that March 31st is National Procrastinator's Day? I had lights strung around the eaves 8 years ago and never have taken them down. My house stands out all year around now, a landmark when I'm giving directions.

Something that can be so fun can also be just one more added burden and that leaves you feeling even more stressed. Put up a tree; don't put up a tree. Recognizing that time is the most precious commodity you probably have, the several hours it takes to set the tree up and then take it down at the end of the season can be discouraging and make you feel weary before you even start.

Who are you decorating for?
If you have little children, then creating that mystical, magical wonderland is probably a good thing and it will be fun watching their faces. If you just like to relive memories of childhood, then putting up the decorations for yourself will probably be just as enjoyable. But if the very thought of pulling out those wreaths, candles, lights, ornaments and wall hangings gives you hives, re-think this obligation. Or hire someone to do it for you.

There are three choices for the To Decorate or Not to Decorate question: 1) decorate and make it an event to remember; 2) decorate for a purpose where the reason to decorate outweighs the feeling of burden; or 3) don't decorate. Regardless of which category your seasonal decorating mood falls into, it's still a time commitment in a busy season. How you feel about decorating becomes, then, a matter attitude. Sometimes adjusting attitude is easier done from a meditative approach. Let's begin.

Attitude Adjustment
As usual, find a comfortable place to sit where your spine is straight, your feet and hands are comfortable, your shoulders are relaxed and you have addressed the tension pockets that detract from your concentration. Focus on your breathing as you relax deeper and release any tension.

When you are ready, you are going to bring to mind your house as it is now, empty of holiday decorations. Ask yourself: if there were no pressures over the next few weeks and you had as much time as you wanted, how would you like to see your living room look when the holiday arrives? Lightly decorated, heavily decorated, or no decorations? Try out each scenario and test it for how it feels. Choose the level of decorations that makes you feel the most relaxed, leaving you with a smile on your face (given no external pressures).

After you have decided what you would like to do, next ask yourself whether or not you can accomplish this look without adding to your stress level. Perhaps you chose no decorations, but your family wants the full treatment. Or maybe you want to fully decorate but you don't have enough time to get the job done. There may be many combinations of what you would like to do and the obstacles you see that cause you to wonder if the effort is worth it.

So many of your simple daily challenges happen just like this. When you are relaxed, feeling in control of your time and energy, these decisions are easy. For many people, however, just one more decision is like that proverbial last straw on the camel's back. You feel you're going to break.

There is a comfortable balance between doing what you want and doing what you feel you should do. It would be great if you never had to do anything you didn't feel like doing. Just as it would feel awful if all you ever did was what everyone else thinks you should do. There is a middle point where you can learn to enjoy all of what you do by finding an appreciation for the results.

Choose the level of decoration and the amount of effort you are comfortable putting into the job. Watch yourself either transforming your living room or simply sitting quietly without decorating. Either way, enjoy the process. If you are decorating your home, see each decoration as filled with your memories and balancing the look of the room. The final results are satisfying and you are smiling from within. If you are not decorating, feel the warmth of your home, quiet and comfortable with you at its center, happy and satisfied. Regardless of your choice, own it and embrace it.

For every part of this holiday season, place yourself in a decision point that balances how you want to feel and what you might feel obligated to do. There is a way to manage both sides of this scale. It's just a matter of developing an attitude of gratitude, looking forward to the results.

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Chesa Keane has taught meditation and self-help for more than 30 years. To learn how to meditate the right way, using guided meditations, go to: www.meditationwarrior.com.